Home Brewer’s Yeast – Liquid or Dry?
The homebrewer has two types of yeast to choose from; liquid or dry yeasts. For some, this argument is akin to a “taste and less stuffing” or “Ford versus Chevy” debate and is just a matter of preference, while others are very passionate about their preferences. Good beer can be made with both dry and liquid yeast and both have their advantages and disadvantages. While many homebrew enthusiasts claim that dry yeasts are a poor fermenter and can produce off-flavors as they are not as pure a culture as liquid yeast, others favor the convenience and lower cost that dry yeast offers. .
Dry yeast is inexpensive, convenient, sturdy, and requires no starter. However, most experts agree that a starter would be beneficial when using a dry yeast. A simple starter to rehydrate your dry yeast is available right from your kettle. A starter will create more yeast cells that are added to the wort, resulting in a more efficient fermentation process. More efficient fermentation results in a better quality beer with less chance of contamination. To create a starter, simply remove 1 cup of wort 30 minutes before the end of the boil and cool in a covered container. Add the dry yeast and let it rest for 10 to 30 minutes. After this time, the yeast should be visibly whipped and / or frothy, and ready to pitch. I also find the addition of a good yeast nutrient to your wort very beneficial. The best nutrient is dead yeast cells in the form of Vegemite or Marmite yeast extracts. The addition of a yeast nutrient to the wort promotes a healthy and hearty fermentation resulting in a beer with a lower final gravity. You can use your kettle trub as an excellent yeast nutrient.
Dry yeast is also easy to store and sturdy. Dry yeast tends to produce a more solid yeast cake, which makes racking easier and produces a lighter end product. Also, dry yeast is much cheaper than liquid yeast. Liquid yeast can represent 25% of the total manufacturing cost. Fermentation with dry yeast starts quickly and helps prevent the beer from becoming infected due to the waiting time. Since dry yeast can be stocked, you won’t find yourself rushing to your local brewery to pick up some if you accidentally forgot to buy it.
However, the selection of good dry yeasts is quite small and therefore limits the range of possible beer flavor profiles that you can obtain with yeast. Liquid yeasts are pure cultures or mixes of pure cultures and come in an extremely wide range of options that allow for many possibilities when it comes to affecting the flavor profile of your beer (and if you want to make a lager, liquid yeast is your only one. option). There are many strains of wet yeast available. Each produces a different tasting beer. There are only a few dried strains available. Simply put, all of the subtle flavors that wet strains offer are simply not available in a dry form. Some of the most popular are, but certainly not all. With liquid yeast you can propagate, divide and reuse wet to reduce your costs, if you are careful about sanitation and want to take the time to do it. You can divide and re-divide to get the cost per batch less than half that of dry yeast. But this takes a lot of time and effort.
For the absolute best beer, there is no question that liquid yeast is a superior product and worth every bit of the added cost. But like so many things, we have time, money and quality of which in many cases we can only choose two. If you want high quality and want to save time, please buy a higher priced liquid pack. If you want high quality and want to save money, propagate from a time-consuming liquid pack. If you want to save time and money, buy dry, but acknowledge the fact that you probably won’t get all the subtle flavor options you want and possibly a lower quality beer but good beer nonetheless.